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Ohio Redistricting Commission adopts congressional district map over objections by Democrats

 Commissioners hand out different maps to be submitted during a Ohio Redistricting Commission meeting on March 2, 2022.
Andy Chow
Statehouse News Bureau
Commissioners hand out different maps to be submitted during a Ohio Redistricting Commission meeting on March 2, 2022.

After seeing a flurry of proposed maps and changes to those maps, the Ohio Redistricting Commission adopted a Republican-drawn congressional district plan.

The commission approved a congressional district map that creates 10 Republican districts, three Democratic districts, and two competitive districts that lean slightly in favor of Democratic candidates. The new map had to include one less district than the current map as a result of the 2020 U.S. Census.

The commissioners debated the merits of the congressional district map. Democratic members said the plan is drawn to favor Republicans and would be found unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court.

The court has already invalidated a congressional map passed by the Ohio Legislature in November. In that map, 80% of the congressional districts favored Republicans. The court's ruling stated that map did not reflect Ohio's voter preference by party, which is about 54% Republican and 46% Democratic.

House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) proposed making changes to the Republican-drawn plan. Those changes would shift the party breakdown by creating eight Republican districts, six Democratic districts, and one competitive district that leans Democratic.

Russo said the commission should slow down and try to work on reaching a bipartisan agreement.

"To come to some agreement, get to a map that will pass constitutional muster, that will get bipartisan support, will be in effect for ten years, and will allow us to conduct elections," said Russo. "It's really that simple."

Republicans commissioners rejected those changes and another map proposed by the Democratic members by a vote of 2 to 5.

In a January ruling to invalidate the previous map, a 4-3 majority of the Ohio Supreme Court said, "We hold that the congressional-district plan is invalid in its entirety because it unduly favors the Republican Party and disfavors the Democratic Party."

Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said the adopted map addresses some of the concerns raised by the supreme court in its ruling.

However, Huffman contends that the Ohio Redistricting Commission is not bound by the constitution to address the issue of "unduly" favoring one party over another. Sections of the state constitution against drawing a map that unduly favors a political party do not apply to the commission at this point in the redistricting process, he said.

Voter rights organizations and Democratic groups disagree with Huffman's argument. Plaintiffs in the supreme court case have the opportunity to object to the latest congressional district plan.

The filing deadline for congressional candidates is Friday.

Lawmakers approved legislation that would send $9 million to local boards of elections. The additional funds are intended to help elections officials with the last-minute work of carrying out the May 3 primary with the congressional and state legislative maps still in limbo.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.